Group of Native American women work to locate missing people on Navajo Nation

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FARMINGTON, N.M. – We all deserve to feel safe in our community, in the place we call home. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. 

Statistics from the Bureau of Indian Affairs show Native Americans are at a disproportionate risk of going missing. They estimate around 4,200 missing and murdered cases that have gone unsolved. 

Now, one group of all-female rescue volunteers are chipping away at that list.

The Navajo Nation is made up of over 27,000 square miles of rugged terrain, and in some places, it can be very remote. 

“We still have families out there that just don’t have electricity or cell phone receptions or don’t even have cell phones,” said Bernadine Beyale, founder of 4 Corners K-9 Search and Rescue.

There is also a crisis on the Navajo Nation of missing people. And when this happens, families that need help, are often faced with barriers.

“Jurisdiction plays a lot into this because ‘No, they live in your county’ ‘No, they live in your area.’ So there is nothing happening,” Beyale said.

So, to build a bridge between these jurisdictional gaps, Beyale started 4 Corners K-9 Search and Rescue, with two furry companions.

“Trigger’s disciplines are human remains training and live find or air scent,” Beyale said. “Gunny is my second Shepard, he is a Ceviche Slovakian Shepherd, and he just turned two in February. He does live find as well, same as Trigger, and is learning human remains training.”

These dogs understand a difficult language to learn.

“The unique thing about both of them is all their commands are done in Navajo, so they understand Navajo,” said Beyale. 

Every weekend Beyale, her two dogs, and volunteers search the Navajo Nation for answers. 

“We had a search up in Bluff, Utah with an individual who went missing on a Saturday. We got a call on a Wednesday,” Beyale said. “So, when we got out there within 45 minutes the dogs found this person, and he was probably a half a mile from his house in a little sand dune.”

Putting themselves in these families’ shoes motivates Beyale and her team.

“They’re scared, they’re frustrated, they are worried, they just want an answer. All they want is communication, to be told ‘Yep, we are out there, we are looking, we’ll do this for you.’ So that’s what we are doing,” Beyale said. “We’ll look for you, we’ll see if we can find you answers to help bring closure to you.”

Beyale added they are working on funding to trying to add a drone to the team and are also looking for more volunteers.